Pharyngeal Reflex

Commonly referred to as a “gag reflex”, this reaction can either have physical roots, psychological roots, and sometimes both. Psychological reasons could be because of past abuse or perhaps being placed in a situation where you almost suffocated or suddenly couldn’t breathe well. Physical reasons could be something as simple as an overly sensitive pallet.

The Pharyngeal Reflex plays an important part of our biology to help prevent us from choking on something that could block our airway. You can be sure, however, that consistently gagging during every visit while seated in the dental chair will drive your hygienist and dentist a bit batty or at least frustrate them. Here are some ideas to help overcome the reflex at your next normal dental visit:

  • Try using a numbing throat spray like Vicks Chloraseptic or Breathe Right Snore Relief spray.
  • Practice Breathing through your nose instead of your mouth.
  • If you gag during x-rays, try humming a tune.
  • Slowly practice controlling the reflex ahead of time at home using a toothbrush until the reflex becomes less sensitive and you can go longer sessions without gagging.
  • Put table salt on the tip of your tongue.
  • Listen to music to take your mind off the procedure.

For anyone who suffers from a gag reflex due to psychological reasons, having a discussion with your dentist might help. The feeling of being out of control can trigger anxiety in some people and so building rapport and trust with your dentist will also help. Another effective option lies within sedation dentistry. If you are like many of our other patients who deal with a bad gag reflex, contact our office at 480-991-2290 to see what Dr. Kidess can do to get you back into a healthy oral hygiene routine.